2016: Wye River/Separation Creeks Fires

Wildlife triage centre set up at Lorne for animals injured in Christmas Day bushfires

5 Jan 2016


Wildlife officers are finding up to 10 animals per day that were injured in the Christmas Day bushfires around Lorne on the Victorian Surf Coast.

More than 2,500 hectares of land was burnt in the fires which destroyed 116 homes in the Wye River and Separation Creek area.

Staff from the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning have been checking the fire ground in search of injured animals.

Tehree Gordon, from the Jirrahlinga Koala Wildlife Sanctuary, at Barwon Heads, said the fire zone remained hot for a number of days after the blaze and many animals, including koalas, will have to be put down because of their injuries.

“It’s the nocturnal animals who live in trees. They’re affected by the radiant heat from fires,” she said.

“Koalas don’t run and are very vulnerable. Echidnas and reptiles are quick to pick up what’s happening and go underground if they can.”

Mike Harper, the fire deputy incident controller, said most of the area was still too unsafe to allow large numbers of wildlife workers or volunteers to go in.

“The search area is small and it may be some time before other areas are accessible,” he said.

“We’ll get a better view of the damage that’s been done in the coming months once it’s safer to cross the ground,” Mr Harper said.

He said a triage centre had been set up at Lorne where licensed veterinarians and staff are assessing the injured animals.

About 50 per cent of the animals were well enough to be released.

“Vets are assessing them as they come in and the goal is to get as many back out in their habitat as we can,” he said.

“The animals are going in there and if they need rehabilitation then they’re actually given out to wildlife carers who will do that rehabilitation.”

Some of those animals will go to the Jirrahlinga sanctuary.

Ms Gordon said they had been “inundated” with donations of goods for the injured animals and some of that assistance was being shared with wildlife shelters in other fire zones.

“We sent two truckloads out in the last two days, with goods going to carers in Epping and Elaine,” she said.

Many people have already donated bedding, towels and medical supplies for the animals but more help was needed, Ms Gordon said.

“We need petrol vouchers and cash to cope with transportation and running back and forth picking up animals,” she said.